Many moons ago, a former Sunday School teacher of mine was talking about a preacher who had fallen from grace, and the conversation turned to what that meant for the people whose lives he had touched. If his own life was so far removed from God’s will, what did that mean for his teaching?
The question was asked, “Can God use fallen people?” To which I answered, “Of course. Those are all He has to choose from.”
It occurred to me this past week that, while that’s completely true, it’s only partially true.
Bear with me.
The conversation started with someone saying they wished a situation was different. In reality, they wished the situation didn’t exist. And that would require the past being different. Which, the friend said, God doesn’t do.
Of course, the truth is, we have no idea if He does or doesn’t do that. I suspect not, based on my personal beliefs. But the truth is, for all I know, I originally went to college at the University of Southern Mississippi, and 20 years later, prayed that I wished I’d gone to Ole Miss. If God granted that prayer, I wouldn’t know it, because I never would have gone to USM in the first place, and wouldn’t remember the prayer or the difference. Right? So for all we know, the world as we know it now is the result of someone praying for a better world than the one they were in.
Still bearing with me? Thanks.
Because, sure, that’s kind of silly and science fiction and everything, but here’s where it gets a little more practical. Kind of.
I wrote a blog post a while back in which I mentioned a book called Lucifer’s Flood, which is essentially a fictional narrative of the Gap Theory. This theory argues that there were actually essentially two creations, one in Genesis 1:1, and a second thereafter, and that there is a gap of a substantial period of time between the first and second verses of the Bible. Basically, the theory goes that God created the Heavens and the Earth, as per 1:1, and that things went so horribly wrong (the fall of Satan was during this period) that the Earth was brought to ruin and had to be restored, which is where Genesis 1:2 picks up — “And the Earth was without form, and void.”
Now, to be honest, I don’t really believe this theory either. But regardless of whether or not you believe God did do this thing, I think you have to believe that He could do this thing — that it is within the capacity of God to destroy creation and re-create it. After all, as Revelation 21:1 tells us — “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new Earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” God can do this.
And whether or not He did it once between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 aside, He didn’t do it after the Fall of Adam and Eve. He could have. But He didn’t. Rather than destroying what He had made and creating a new Earth, He chose to move forward with fallen one.
To make it a little more interesting, move forward in time a little bit. God becomes grieved with what His creation has become and regretted creating it. So He decided to “put an end to all people … to destroy both them and the Earth.” And so He floods the entire world, and kills everyone and starts over.
Except — He doesn’t really. He stops just short of killing everyone. He leaves one family alive. He could have killed everyone, and rebooted completely. Created a new Adam and Eve, perfect and unfallen, and started over. And yet, He didn’t. He started over from Square Two, from fallen descendants of a fallen man, cursed with original sin.
Why? I could theorize, but I don’t know, and that’s not the point.
The point is this —
“Can God use fallen people?” “Of course. Those are all He has to choose from.”
But that’s all He has to choose from because that’s all there is on this Earth. The fact that’s all there is on this Earth, on the other hand, is His choice. If He wanted to work with perfect people, He has the power to make them. At any point, He could destroy this fallen world, and start over. But He doesn’t.
Could He change the past? Maybe. But, again, the world as we see it is the world as He wills for it to be.
This is the world He chose — a world full of us, fallen and imperfect and clumsy and fleshly and mistake-prone and quick to disobey. We are whom He loves. We are whom He works with.
Not because He has no choice.
But because He chooses to.